They agree with us about being right by Michigan and SDSU
Dark horse: Does Gonzaga count here? If not, and you’re looking for a sneaky Final Four bid out of the West, look no further than sixth-seeded Houston. The Cougars pushed Cincinnati to the brink in the American Athletic championship game Sunday, showing a national audience just how stifling this team’s defense can be. Houston is a solid favorite to beat San Diego State in round one; in Wichita, they’d also be playing comparably closer to home against Michigan in round two. From there, UNC likely awaits, but our model gives the Cougars a 33 percent chance of getting that far — and, as a result, a 7 percent chance of making the Final Four.
Don’t bet on: No. 3 seed Michigan. It’s an unfortunate draw for a team heading into the tourney playing as well as just about anybody in the country (the Wolverines actually rank third in our pre-tournament Elo ratings, behind only Virginia and Villanova), but the selection committee did Michigan zero favors here. First-round opponent Montana is unusually strong for a No. 14 seed — check out the sea of 10, 11 and 12 seeds around them in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings — and likely second-round foe Houston was underseeded as a No. 6, too. Then, if the Wolverines survive opening weekend, they’ll probably be treated to a rematch of their 15-point loss to UNC from late November. Michigan has fought through similarly tough tourney paths before, but right now we give them only a 14 percent shot at a Final Four berth.
Cinderella Watch: Sadly, this isn’t a very promising region for Cinderella bids. For instance, No. 11 seed San Diego State is the kind of good, solid team (it ranks 50th in Kenpom’s ratings) that you’d ordinarily pencil in for an upset or two, but Houston and Michigan are too difficult to realistically expect a Sweet 16 berth from the Aztecs. And the other teams in classic upset seeds — 10th-seeded Providence and 12th-seeded South Dakota State — are each the weakest at their seed-line in the whole field. Blah.
Likeliest round-one upsets: Florida State over Missouri (61 percent); Providence over Texas A&M (42 percent)